Lakers takeaways after defeating Suns: LeBron James will be fine

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LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 09: Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) watched from the sideline in a game against the Phoenix Suns in the first quarter at the Staples Center on Sunday, May 9, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
LeBron James glances at the scoreboard from the sideline during the Lakers' victory over the Suns on Sunday night at Staples Center. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Here are five observations from the Lakers 123-110 win over the Phoenix Suns on Sunday night at Staples Center:

1) “I’m back.”

Late in the Lakers' win over the Suns, Anthony Davis caught a lob from Alex Caruso, spun 180 degrees and slammed home the ball with one hand — while getting fouled.

“I’m back,” he howled.

The play capped Davis’ best game since the NBA’s Orlando bubble, a 42-point, 12-rebound, three-block and three-steal masterpiece that should have the Lakers feeling confident if they run into Phoenix in the first round of the playoffs.

The confidence should come from the fact that Davis has looked fantastic in three of his last four games, which includes wins over Denver and Phoenix.

“Umm, [I feel] like 20% of my old self. … Kidding. I feel good,” Davis said. “I’m getting my legs back, I’m getting my rhythm back. Getting my steps back on both ends of the floor. I’m feeling better each game, getting my wind back each game, so we’re heading in the right direction.”

Davis showed it all Sunday, hitting 15 of 17 free throws, as the Lakers attacked a match-up advantage against the Suns' frontcourt.

“You see Anthony just getting a little bit stronger every game, a little bit more in rhythm every game and just a sensational performance by Anthony tonight,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said.

2) “He’s next.”

What Davis did on the court Monday was exciting. What he said afterward was even better.

Davis copped to witnessing one of LeBron James’ recent workouts. People familiar with the situation have told The Times that James has ramped things up in recent days, impressing witnesses with his cutting and explosiveness in a Saturday workout.

But then there was a workout Sunday …

“What I’ve seen from LeBron today … he’s … he’ll be fine,” Davis said with a smile. “Trust me. He’ll be fine.”

James attended Sunday’s game and looked fine on the sidelines, working the officials and cheering on teammates with the mobility of a man with two healthy ankles.

James hasn’t been ruled out from a return Tuesday against the Knicks — more news is expected Monday after the Lakers practice.

“Obviously, there's going to be an adjustment period with him in terms of getting his rhythm and timing back," Vogel said. "Hopefully we have enough time for that to pick up very quickly. I've tended to learn to have confidence in LeBron James in situations like that.”

3) And then it's Dennis?

Before the game, Vogel said the team is getting good news on the Dennis Schroder front, the starting point guard out the last week while in the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols. The team had said they hoped he’d be back in 10-14 days, and that timeline got clearer Sunday.

“He’s still engaged in what we’re doing. We’re really still hopeful that he can return for the final two games — or one of those final two games — to get a little bit of run before we enter playoff play,” Vogel said pregame. “And he’s limited, obviously, with what he can do from a conditioning standpoint but just trying to make the best of it.”

4) There’s no good news without some bad news

The Lakers had a huge night from Davis, got encouraging news on James, had Talen Horton-Tucker return and continued to see how Alex Caruso was growing in comfort.

But a good night couldn’t be a great night because the team had to compete with Kyle Kuzma missing the game because of an injury.

Kuzma was downgraded and ruled out pregame because of a lower back injury. There’s no word on when he’ll return.

5) The best of the rest

A lot happened Sunday. Vogel finally played backup center Montrezl Harrell and Marc Gasol together (meh), Caruso turned in another great game, so did Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Ben McLemore hit some huge shots, as did Wes Matthews. Andre Drummond struggled late and Vogel sat him for Gasol, while Harrell and Jae Crowder had some heated exchanges, setting the stage for a fun playoff series if it happens.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.